Hunger strike at the NW Detention Center in Tacoma

Tacoma, WA—At noon on April 10, over 100 immigrants incarcerated at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) refused their lunch, launching a hunger strike to protest their treatment inside the immigration prison. The Tacoma, Washington facility, located on a superfund site, is the largest immigrant detention center on the West Coast, caging over 1500 immigrants who are facing civil deportation proceedings. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts with the GEO Group, a multinational private prison corporations, to run the facility, and hunger strikers aimed their demands at both the federal government and the private contractor. The NWDC has been a frequent target of immigrant activists since a March 2014 hunger strike involving 1200 detainees first brought international notoriety to the immigration prison. A demand letter that circulated around the facility prior to the launch of the strike echoed many of the concerns raised in the 2014 strike, and includes demands for more expedited hearings, improved quality of food, improved access to medical care, and lowering of exorbitant commissary prices (strikers note that already over-inflated prices on commissary items have recently doubled). Additionally, hunger strikers are asking for an increase in the $1 a day they currently receive for running all of the prison’s basic services. Some have even been denied the $1/day payment, and have been given a bag of chips in exchange for several nights of waxing the prison’s floors.

—the NWDC Resistance

People’s Tribunal against the immigration system and the NW Detention Center

On February 26, 2017, a tribunal, sitting in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, heard testimony pertaining to the detention and deportation process, conditions of the detention center, and treatment of the detainees.

People’s Tribunals have a long history of being used anytime legal or political systems do not provide adequate remedy for harm in cases of abuse or injustice. The testimony [in February] demonstrated the importance of using the People’s Tribunal, because our systems are clearly failing.

Based upon the testimony of the detainees, the Tribunal submits these written Findings of fact:

  1. General Findings:
  2. The immigration and detention system is a part of a broader dehumanization of migrants.
  3. There is no distinction between good and bad immigrant: we are all human and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
  4. All migrants are economic, political, and/or social refugees of some kind.
  5. Trade agreements allow for the free flow of capital and products, but not human beings.
  6. The tribunal finds on all evidence presented before it that the United States Government, including DHS – ICE/CBP, Trump Administration, State of Washington, City of Tacoma and all counties and cities and GEO Group and all contracted agencies are responsible for gross, widespread, and systematic violations of human dignity and human rights.
  7. The immigration and criminal system are one in the same and directly target people of color, immigrant communities and indigenous communities of this land whose bodies are used for labor and profit.

As it concerns to the United States Immigration and Customs Service (hereinafter “ICE”) and GEO Group, City of Tacoma and the State of Washington:

  1. The two organizations (ICE and The GEO Group) passing the responsibility for inmate safety makes accountability more difficult to achieve;
  2. There are currently inadequate food/calories provided during meals;
  3. There is no access to soap and clothing
  4. Medical care is atrocious and people have died in detention and after they are released or deported because of it.
  5. The use of retaliatory solitary confinement is a common practice;
  6. The subcontracting of phone and commissary services is at exorbitant rates for a captive population.
  7. There is no adequate complaint system

As it Concerns only ICE:

  1. Wages of $1 a day for “voluntary work” is an ongoing practice.
  2. Toxic Environmental Impacts: the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center is located on a superfund site (abandoned drums) in an industrially polluted zone, where the administrative detainees are drinking the tap water without the knowledge of the long term effects of this exposure. They are also breathing in the toxic fumes of wet paint and floor wax because they cannot move to a different location when those tasks are completed.

Second People’s Tribunal against the Immigration System and The Northwest Detention Center.

Statement of demands by hunger strikers

The motive that we write this is to ask you by favor that we all participate united, and on Monday April 10, 2017, from noon and on we will not eat, or use the phones, neither will we bunk up on the late night count or lights out. The objective is to reach some changes in the institution which are the following:

1) Change the food (menu)

2) Lower the commissary (reasonable pries)

3) Better hygiene (with the clothes)

4) Increase rec-time

5) Bring programs such as: school and program to keep our heads occupied and avoid depression mentally

6) Better medical attention

7) Increase wages for working detainees (waxing floors, painting, cleaning, cooking, laundry)

8) Facilitate court proceedings (speed up the process).

Please we ask for our help and participation. Because it is not just for them to treat out the way they want without them respecting our rights! And if we speak up we don’t speak up we’ll always be the same.

NWDC Resistance​ is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the now-infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA as part of the #Not1more campaign, and supported people detained who organized hunger strikes asking for a halt to all deportations and better treatment and conditions. (www.nwdcresistance.org 1-800-357-3196)